The 51st annual Roy A. Overholt Invitational Tournament inevitably has a different feel this summer, considering its founder Roy Overholt passed away at 89 last year. Despite the absence of the beloved Brookfield native, Overholt’s spirit remains alive and well at the local showcase Little League tourney, often referred to as the World Series of District 9.
Greg Boswell, a former player in the Overholt tourney, who now coaches the Brookfield team admiringly recalls Overholt’s knowledge and passion for baseball.
“Mr. Overholt taught me well,” Boswell said. “He taught me how to respect the game and to play hard no matter what. That’s what I try to teach the kids now. I want to teach them to play hard and never give up.
Overholt also greatly influenced Boswell’s coaching philosophy.
“(Overholt) made a big impact on me as a pitching coach,” Boswell said. “He taught me how to throw the straight changeup. I threw that instead of a curveball throughout my career into the minor leagues. He saved my arm. I preach to the kids to throw the straight change or the circle change instead of a curveball to save their arms too.”
Overholt started the tournament in 1964 when he asked winning teams from area Little League organizations to participate in a tournament. The only major part of Overholt’s life that lasted longer was his marriage with his beloved wife and fellow baseball fanatic, Audrey.
“I got the idea for the tournament because it seemed like there were a lot of all-star teams and games that had nothing to do with first-place teams,” Overholt said a few summers ago. “Our tournament invites Little League championship teams from District 9, so it’s unique in that way, plus we were the only tournament with lights when we first started.”
Riverside outslugs Brookfield
After splitting its first two games at Overholt in early action last week, Brookfield faced local rival Riverside last Thursday. Riverside outslugged Brookfield to earn a 12-6 victory. After Riverside seized a 7-0 lead, Brookfield battled back in the fifth inning with six runs highlighted by Archie Wagner’s three-run home run to pull within 7-6.
“Our kids didn’t give up,” Boswell said. “They always knew that we could come back; they never hung their heads. A lot of our leadership from the 12-year-olds has really shown up in the younger kids this year.”
In a game offering several momentum shifts, Riverside responded with five unanswered runs late to secure the win.
Riverside’s Zachary Cameron notched two hits for the victors, while teammate Andrew Dakuras belted a two-run homer.
“I was just thinking that I had to swing through and keep my knees bent,” Dakuras said about his home run. “I just wanted to stay focused and keep my eye on the ball.”
Playing in his first Overholt, Dakuras, a promising catcher, is relishing the unique experience like countless kids before him.
“I like the competition,” he said. “It’s fun having all these different teams coming out to play. And I love to hit, hitting is definitely my favorite part of the game.”
Riverside first baseman Danny Kawecki contributed a hit and RBI against Brookfield.
“I just wanted to get a good nice solid hit,” he said. “I knew if I could do that we could go ahead and take the lead.”
Riverside coach Paul Kawecki cited his team’s collective effort as the key to knocking off Brookfield.
“Our kids played really well,” he said. “Zach [Cameron] did a really great job and we had contributions from everybody which we needed.”
In its tourney opener, Brookfield turned in an impressive performance against South Cicero. Brookfield pitcher Danny Sessler fired a no-hitter and struck out 15 of 17 batters as Brookfield cruised to a 7-0 win.
“Throwing a no-hitter was a really memorable moment,” Sessler said. “I just started to throw the ball well. After a while, Coach Boswell just kept me in so I could keep it up.”